I think most can agree that kid’s today are much more sensitive then ever before... and (for the most part) that’s an awesome thing.
We teach them to be compassionate, start “empathy” and “kindness” clubs at school, applaud them for being a good sport and helping their opposing teammate up off the field... allow them the freedom of expression in all areas of their brand new, ever evolving, amazing little lives....
But with this open heart that we’ve so enthusiastically encouraged, also comes a kind of Pandora’s box.
A boy at my daughter’s middle school took his own life the other day.
14 short years on this planet.
I have no idea “why”, and quite frankly, it’s none of my business.
But as a parent, it obviously makes me take a scrutinizing look at my own kids....
Is she acting more reclusive than usual (I mean she is 12 and loving her door being shut more than open these days). Is she moodier/angrier than even the raging hormones can take credit for? And how did her day ACTUALLY go... I mean “fine” only gives me so much insight.
I get it: Teen angst is not a new concept.... If I had to guess, I’m sure cave tweens were even rolling their eyes at their cave parents....
But our generation of tweens are feeling it at such a deep level and on a whole, I’m not sure how good we are at giving them the tools to manage these big, heavy feels - I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to figure out how for myself...
Let’s keep it real: Anxiety & depression in tweens is becoming increasingly more & more common... and documented at younger & younger ages.
Telling your kid to “stop acting like a baby”, “toughen up”, “grow a thicker skin”, “get over it”, after you spent the last 10 years teaching them be an empathetic superstar, is pretty counter productive.
So instead of trying to put a cork in their bottle of emotions, I take the opposite approach.
I let those flood gates open.
What I’ve been doing is simple....
I listened to her. I mean REALLY listen..... even the shit I don’t want to hear...
I encourage her to lay out every hurt, anger, bottled up emotion and give her permission to give it ALL to me, even at a deafening volume (I’ve put my fingers in my ears on more than one occasion).
The one caveat? She cannot unload on me whenever she damn well pleases.
This isn’t a free ticket to letting her lash out at me in anger in the heat of an argument... oh no, no...
No, this is me being proactive and recognizing that she’s been acting wound up lately....
This is me going into her room, shutting the door, sitting on the bed and letting her say WHATEVER she wants - including curse words (surprise, surprise...her favorite part)... and giving her my solemn promise that NOTHING will be held against her (i.e. no punishment, reprimand or scolding).
It has worked MIRACLES for our relationship.
She feels heard. She gets all those big emotions off her heart. It builds trust.
Even though I might cringe at my 12 year old dropping the f-bomb or LOL when she calls her brothers “little shits” (did I mention how great laughter is for diffusing & releasing anger?!), I promised her that there would be no repercussions - and there aren’t.
After she gets it all out, after I get a front row seat at what’s really going on inside her 12 yr. old heart & mind, we take a deep breath, we laugh, we hug, and the room feels LIGHTER. <<for bonus points, insert smudging here>>
**Also a side note: I don’t take anything she says personally... I don’t get butt hurt that she called me a name or mortally wounded that she is angry with me... I’m an adult and can recognize that she’s hurting and throwing a temper tantrum because she doesn’t have the emotional maturity yet to handle it in a more controlled, productive way: in short she’s not an adult - BUT I AM - and I will NOT match her tantrum with an adult one of my own***
My goal as a parent is not to follow “the rules” of all the other parents, my goal is to raise amazing human beings that will do amazing things in this world.
Once they have the tools to handle all those great big, wonderful emotions, they will be able to do just that.
So tell me what you think... Are you/Would you do something like this with YOUR kids?
***Disclaimer: I am by no means a doctor, psychiatrist or any member of the medical community. I am a mom of a tween giving her opinion. If you, your child or someone you know is talking about suicide or exhibiting suicidal tendencies, please contact your healthcare provider and call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 ***